Interview With Bishop Jozef Punt

Monsignor, you have received a letter from a group of cardinals to all the bishops of the world to give their opinion regarding Mary and her place in God’s plan of salvation. They plead for the official proclamation of Mary as ‘the spiritual Mother of all Nations, Co-redemptrix… Mediatrix of all graces… and Advocate…’ Do you support this action?

Bishop Punt: I am certainly positive about it. Their appeal though is not new, as it builds on a long-standing conviction within the Church. All these Marian titles, including that of Co-redemptrix, own a solid place in the Tradition of the Church. We find them back with popes, saints and mystics. The current action, however, goes one step further, because its main issue is a fifth Marian dogma. By some this call has caused surprise. Yet, this form of dialogue is a very normal and legitimate one in the Church. Important teachings of the Church have never been brought about otherwise. The pope alone has the final competence to judge about the significance and expediency of such a proclamation.

This dialogue, however, is not a matter of theological hairsplitting, but concentrates on the timely question who Mary may be for our time and our world. Together with the cardinals and the hundreds of bishops who in the past have declared themselves in favor of this issue, I share the inspiration that the Lord has entrusted our age in a special way to His Mother and that it is His will that the Church gathers round Mary even more in this time, as once the apostles did in the cenacle, to plead for a new Pentecost for our wounded world.

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But why do we need a dogma for that, and why this dogma in particular?

Bishop Punt: Let me first say something on the second part, the substance. I realize that especially fellow Christians from the Reformation consider all these Marian titles as an obscuring of the primacy and magnitude of Christ. I understand their concern very well. Yet I think the opposite is true. It is precisely the greatness of Mary and the many titles tradition has attributed to her – already Cardinal Newman writes – that refer to the absolute uniqueness of the Child that is born of her: “He is the divine Wisdom, she therefore the Seat of Wisdom… He is the infinite Mercy, she therefore the Mother of Mercy…” If you have no problem to call her with the Church Fathers “Mother of God, new Eve, Morningstar…”, he argues in dialogue with an Anglican minister, “then what objection can you make to her being called ‘Co-redemptrix’ as well?” Obviously, the “co” here does not mean “equal to” but “united with.”

Don’t you think this title nevertheless creates some confusion and by that unintentionally diminishes the universal Mediatorship of Christ?

Bishop Punt: It of course calls for explanation, as practically all formulations of faith do, but at the same time something else is made more clear. Christ, I too testify with great emphasis, is the only Mediator between God and man. He alone unites both in his own Person. He alone redeems man, yet not without man. He lets us share in our own redemption. It is a realization we already find with St. Paul, and later on with St. Augustine. The universality of the Redemption through Christ “does not exclude cooperation of human beings, but on the contrary makes room for it”, the Second Vatican Council therefore concludes (LG 60, 62). Indeed, also our sufferings, prayers and works become redemptive for ourselves and for others to the extent in which we are united with Christ by our faith and by our lives. This is a notion, I consider also essential for our time.

Obviously, in an outstanding way this applies to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who went all the way with Him, from the time before His birth until the time after His death. Inseparable then, inseparable now. With soul and body living in heaven, like He is. Glorified, like He is. She is “the Immaculate Conception”, created by God’s grace in the original purity and freedom. This renders an absolutely unique quality and dimension to her human cooperation to Redemption, through which she surpasses by far all other human beings, as the Council fathers write. This in fact requires its own final theological formulation. Up to the present day this is not available.

But even though the meaning is in line with Catholic theological Tradition, the question remains: Why should this be formulated as a dogma? What does it add?

Bishop Punt: This is a very proper question. As a good priest once said to me: the fact that it is not officially formulated as a fixed truth, does not make it less true, does it? He is right, of course, but still I think he overlooks something which is essential. To God it is not a matter of indifference, whether man does or does not acknowledge explicitly the full reality of His plan of salvation. It is not only truth what matters here, but primarily faith. In the Holy Scriptures Christ is continually searching for the faith of people, responding to it with miracles of healing and salvation. On the public testimony of faith of St. Peter He builds His Church. The Holy Scriptures show again and again to what high degree God makes his salvific action dependent on the faith and free cooperation of people. He asked Mary’s fiat to start his work of salvation. He asks the fiat of the Church in order to fulfill this work and to accomplish great things in our times.

A “yes” to God is in this time more than ever also a “yes” to Mary, so believe the cardinals and so do I. The “totus tuus” pope, John Paul II, lived this idea. Responding to the call of Fatima he entrusts the whole world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. And then, shortly before his death, he made a last and moving appeal to our heavenly Mother: “Obtain for us once more peace and salvation for all of humanity. The eternal Father has chosen you to be the Mother of the Redeemer. Renew our time through your mediation, wonder of his merciful love.” Heaven listens in a special way to the plea of a pastor on behalf of his people – certainly when it is the Supreme Pastor – and again extended the time of mercy.

You see a new Marian dogma as an act of faith in God and in His plan of salvation, that will not remain without response. Can you more specifically mention the fruits, you expect from it?

Bishop Punt: * First of all, in my opinion, it would put Jesus Christ, “the forgotten Redeemer,” the only Mediator between God and man, back in the centre of humanity’s spiritual development. Mary’s role, after all, can only be understood in and through Jesus Christ.

* It would shed new light, so relevant to our times, on the biblical concept of the cooperation asked from us regarding our own redemption, as well as on the unique role of woman in creation and redemption, offering women the so very indispensable new identification of their singular place in God’s plan of salvation.

* But, above all, it would give to Mary, the Immaculata, “the spiritual Mother of all humanity” as John Paul II and Benedict XVI called her, rightful place which God has meant for her and thus open the floodgates of grace. The first four Marian dogmas concern the life and departure of Mary. This new dogma is about us. About her motherly, co-redemptive, mediating and advocating mission for our time and our world now.

And yet, even if a dogma is possible from a theological point of view, and possibly spiritually fruitful, there still remains the question of expediency: why now? Is time actually ripe for this?

Bishop Punt: Essentially, for me this is a question of faith. It implies much more than weighing up the possible pros and cons. In the deepest sense it is about understanding what God’s plan is for our times. He alone knows the future. He alone knows how urgent our age needs the mediation of the heavenly Mother. We can only see the great threats that besiege our world. We can understand the fragility of our own human solutions. We can feel the moral and spiritual decay and we become convinced that we cannot make it without God and his Holy Spirit. It is on that level the question of expediency should be dealt with.

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Personally, it is my deepest conviction that it is the will of the Father and the Son that Mary should be the anchor of hope for these times, where the Redeemer has no longer a place in the heads and hearts of so many. That she alone can bring Christ and His Cross back into the hearts. That she alone is the way to a renewed coming of the Holy Spirit. After all, it is her mission, and that of the Church, to bring to completion to creation in time and history, the redemption Christ has obtained for us on the Cross. Pope Benedict uses for this particular role of Mary the beautiful image of the “aquaductus” (aqueduct): through her heart and hands flow into the world the grace, redemption and peace of Christ.

After all, Mary is not a theological concept: she is really our spiritual Mother. “Totally mother of the limbs”, already St. Augustine wrote, “as she is also the mother of the Head.” This she became under the cross. Her word has power, the Church believes. A mother will overcome any obstacle whenever her children are suffering or are in danger of perishing. How many threats besiege this world! How abundant the sufferings are! How abundant the sins! “But where sin abounds”, Holy Scripture says, “grace becomes boundless ever more.”

Mary opens this gate of grace for us, the love, salvation and forgiveness of God. But always respecting our free will. The full recognition of her magnificent role in God’s plan of salvation, will pave the way for her to fulfill this motherly mission. That is in the deepest sense the inspiration I read in the appeal of the cardinals.

The call of the Cardinals also seems to reflect the devotion of Amsterdam. What is the role of private revelations in all this? Isn’t it problematic?

Bishop Punt: Private revelations are a consistent phenomenon in the Church. In the Holy Scriptures and throughout the whole church history we find them in abundance. Although the Church tests them with great precaution, it does not ignore them. Heaven can speak in this way, too, deepening our faith and making us sensible for the signs of time. Sometimes they contain the call for a special dedication, or for an ecclesiastical feast. In the past two hundred years the apparitions of Mary have shown an increasingly prophetic character. As once the prophet Jonah brought about a change of heart and a spirit of repentance and mortification in the great city of Nineveh with all its sins and indifference, Mary makes, with increasing urgency, a similar appeal in many places throughout the world. In Amsterdam she points to the grave situation of our times. A time marked by “degeneration, disaster and war” and threatened by a “world catastrophe.” To prevent this she asks here for special prayer and conversion, but also for the official recognition of her co-redemptive role in God’s plan of salvation. But in this matter it is not essential that people share my beliefs regarding this specific apparition.

The call of the cardinals has its origins chiefly in theological and historical sources.

Can you explain this somewhat more concretely?

Bishop Punt: A dogma is never based on a private revelation. It is based on a long-standing and constant conviction of the Church, with its roots in Scripture and Tradition. This conviction is obviously present here. In fact the complete theology of the “Co-redemptrix” has already been written. Theologians and saints have used and defended this title. In the 20th century, for example, these included Edith Stein, Maximilian Kolbe, Padre Pio, José Maria Escrivà, Mother Teresa, Sister Lucia, and many others. In 1913 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith confirmed the theological accuracy of this title. In the tradition of doctrinal authority this thought is present in abundance. Popes Benedict XV and Pius XII focused strongly on its meaning, whereas Pius XI and John Paul II used the title explicitly. Actually, the latter’s encyclical letter, Redemptoris Mater, lays the theological foundations for it. In the middle of the Second World War, in 1943, the Dutch bishops consecrated their land and people to Mary Co-redemptrix. The Second Vatican Council produced beautiful writings about Mary’s cooperation to Redemption, but indicated that it did not want to present “a complete doctrine about Mary”, thus explicitly leaving room for further development (LG 54).

Besides, the request for this Marian dogma is longstanding, too. As early as 1923 the Belgian Cardinal Mercier, supported by Maximilian Kolbe and many others, pleaded for the dogmatic definition of Mary’s role in the Redemption. Pope Benedict XV was open to their plea and installed three committees in order to study this topic. The movement remained strong until the 60s, then it decreased due to the beginning crisis of faith. Now, once again, the time seems ripe. Discussion and differences of opinion will remain. It has never been any different. As for that, it would be interesting to read the papers and magazines dating from around the time of the proclamation of the dogma of the Assumption of Mary in 1950. The discussion that was held then with regard to issues of theology, expediency and ecumenism, was practically the same as it is now.

However, as the cardinals rightly emphasize, the pope alone has the inalienable responsibility to weigh these matters. It is our responsibility to follow him in this. The person of Mary is a mystery of love, which the Church has learned to understand ever deeper through the centuries. A mystery about which the final words have not yet been said.

Originally from: Peace Through a Woman